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June 20, 2017

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Kiwis in control with 2 more wins

PETER Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand are cruising in the 35th America’s Cup.

With two race wins over Oracle Team USA on Sunday, helmsman Burling and his crew completed a sweep of the weekend’s first four races on the sparkling waters of Bermuda’s Great Sound to leave the defending champion’s skipper Jimmy Spithill searching for answers in his bid for a third straight win in yachting’s most prestigious competition.

“We’ve made it no secret we’re here to try to win the America’s Cup,” said the 26-year-old Burling. “To do that you’ve got to win eight races. We’re really happy to have won four so far, but we’ve just got to keep pushing.”

The Kiwis came into the regatta on the back foot — with a one-point deficit due to Team USA’s topping the qualifying round-robin.

They got on level terms with their first win on Saturday and now lead 3-0 in the first-to-seven points series — meaning they could take the Cup back to New Zealand for a third time with another sweep of four races next weekend.

In the interim, Spithill said Team USA, which needs seven wins to retain the Cup, would put “everything on the table” in a bid to make their boat faster.

“The guys are disappointed. We wanted a race win today,” said Spithill, whose team beat New Zealand twice in qualifying.

“We’ve proved we can win races against these guys. We topped the qualifying series for a reason. But clearly these guys have made a step so now we’ve got an opportunity — five days to respond.”

Spithill noted that many in Team USA are veterans of the 2013 campaign in San Francisco, when New Zealand held match point at 8-1 against Oracle only to lose 8-9 — falling victim to one of sport’s greatest comebacks. “This is the group to respond because we’ve got the confidence that we can do it,” he said. “We’ve been here before. It’s not over.”

Burling wasn’t on board in 2013. He’s part of the massive Team New Zealand overhaul that followed that crushing reversal. But he knows the Kiwis will also have to improve before next weekend to maintain the upper hand. “I think everybody showed out there our team’s really hungry to keep learning, keep moving forward, keep improving,” Burling, who won Olympic 49er gold in Rio last year, said. “Because we know if we stand still these guys will be catching us.”

New Zealand’s only obvious miscue of the day came in the pre-start of the second race, when it slowed to a near stop.

It didn’t matter as it recovered to power to the first mark virtually even with the USA.

Both teams sailed textbook races, but New Zealand’s superior boat speed, on its light air foils, proved decisive in the victory by a margin of 1 minute 12 seconds.

It was almost a carbon copy of the earlier race, when the Kiwis seized upon an early mistake by Team USA to get their nose in front. Once ahead they relentlessly pressed their advantage, leading by 11 seconds at the second mark on the way to a 49-second win.


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